In Search of Balance

balance boardStrength. Aerobics. Flexibility. Balance.

If you read any articles on physical fitness, attend any fitness classes, or watch any shows on TV about fitness, you’ve undoubtedly heard how we need to work on all of these aspects of fitness.  Focusing on one isn’t enough.

I’ve always been flexible, and yoga practice has simply enhanced that. I long ago gave up my attempts to run for aerobic exercise, but am very fond of walking, so that one has been easy for me to do, either outdoors (a definite preference) or on a treadmill when the weather turns chilly. And as for strength training, while I’m still pretty puny, I’ve worked hard to increase the amount of weight I use for various arm strengthening exercises. But balance? It continues to be a struggle. However, thanks to professional help, that aspect of fitness is looking a bit more promising for me.

After knee surgery a few months ago my surgeon recommended that I begin physical therapy. The therapists initially worked on rebuilding strength in that leg as well as stretching out various things (most notably the dreaded IT band). We’re still working on on all of those, but a few sessions ago they also began working on my balance. I’m not sure exactly what the connection is between balance and my knee injury, but I’m not arguing. I clearly need help.

So now several times a day I do some simple balance exercises that primarily involve standing on one leg doing various things. One that reminds me of juggling is passing a small ball (or can of soup) from hand to hand around my body while standing on one leg. After doing it 20 times clockwise and 20 times counter-clockwise I get to switch legs. I find myself concentrating so much on passing the object around my body that the balance part isn’t too hard. Much harder for me is simply standing still for two minutes on one leg; there’s a lot of wobbling going on with that one. And my therapist has indicated that we’ll gradually increase the time on that one.

But my favorite balance exercises, and ones I currently can’t do at home, involve various balance boards at the therapy center. Have you ever tried using a balance board? For me, it’s a real challenge. But I also find it rather fun. Trying to keep the board stable, or moving it in a controlled manner, is a lot of work but is more interesting than standing on one leg for two minutes. I’m planning on buying a board for my home to keep up with these exercises on a more consistent basis.

Do you have issues with balance? Do you work on it? If so, any favorite exercises or tips you’d like to share?

–LinnieGayl

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9 Responses to “In Search of Balance”

  1. Blythe says:

    i guess i figured my yoga practice included a lot of balance. You mean I have to do MORE? ;)

    • Yoga does include lots of balance. Part of my problem is I’m horrible at most of the yoga balance poses…don’t get me started on The Tree Pose! So they’re taking me back to the real basics. :)

      • JoAnn Ross says:

        My husband has Parkinson’s and started out 18 months ago with gentle yoga, which is now too easy for him. So it takes time. (Says she who’s never done it, lol). He does physical therapy 5 days a week, yoga 3 of those and it’s made a huge difference, also in regaining strength. He was a backpacker/mt climber so he started out strong and fit, which helped. I also bought him a foam balance square they have at his therapy place to stand on one leg while watching TV. I forget its name but if you google it, it’s the blue one.

        If you have a wii, wii fit also has balance exercises. Thanks for the ball passing idea! I don’t know if he’s done that one. Good luck!

        Oh, forgot to mention that the hardest thing was convincing a guy who grew up in Oregon ranching country that he couldn’t wear his Wranglers to Yoga. I had to order yoga pants online because he wouldn’t go try any on in the store. :D

        • Thanks for that tip about the foam balance square. That’s a good idea to stand on it while watching TV. And how funny about wanting to wear jeans to yoga :) Good luck to your husband!

  2. LeeB. says:

    I know one of my bosses has lost balance due to problems with his inner ear. He sees a therapist for that.

  3. Rosario says:

    I’ve found Pilates to be really helpful with balance. I suppose anything that strengthens your core will help, but my instructor does these exercises that are particularly great. It’s sort of a virtuous circle thing, combining strength training and balance. We stand on one leg (the other leg usually lifted in front, knee in line with the hip) and lift free weights with the opposite arm. We’ll do sometimes triceps exercises, sometimes shoulder, lifting the straight arm to the side. You really have to use your core to keep the line of your body straight and keep from toppling over, so the more you do it, the harder it is on your abdominal muscles, and the more you train those muscles, the easier it is to keep your balance.

    • LinnieGaylAAR says:

      Thanks, Rosario! I took a few Pilates classes about 5 years ago. I think I’ll check out some videos. That does sound as if it will work on your balance. And you’re right about the core. Some of the problems I have with various yoga balance poses comes from just not focusing on my core.

  4. CindyS says:

    I have to say, the idea of that board scares me.

    I used a half ball (those huge balls I see around but it’s cut in half with a flat side) The first time I tried balancing on the half ball with the flat top at the top. After my third go I told the therapist that it was easy. So she flipped it over so I’m was on the ball side and it’s spongy so you need to start all over again. Although once I figure out how to stay still I can stand there no issues. So I don’t think I have a balance issue.

    Flexibility? Forget it. Never had it and just can’t seem to find it but I heard great things about yoga and I keep saying I’m going to try it but I love to walk on my treadmill (up to 35 minutes and need to get to an hour) and I’m so done when I get off, the idea of putting in a video and doing some yoga is not so appealing.

    Cindy